Toulson and Harvey
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
Luke Toulson and Stephen Harvey return to the Edinburgh festival after last year's debut show garnered them Perrier Best Newcomer and Dubble Act Award Nominations. This year, with an appetite for the surreal and absurd, they explore the treatment of foreigners by the British, and the foreign policy of the Americans.
The show opens with an Astronaut and a Cosmonaut returning
to earth after being lost in Space since the end of the Cold
War. The former is hailed an American hero, the latter discovers
his country no longer exists. Together they embark on an astonishing
journey, encountering Islamic Nativity plays, Christian Land
Theme Parks, and the band whose song, We're Winning The War On
Terror, is about to go platinum.
Last year, Toulson and Harvey were nominated for the Perrier best newcomer award for their sharp, pacy media satire to the chagrin of those who thought this genre had already been overspoofed.
Well, this time around they've chosen even more widely covered topics: the war on terror, how politics has become a branch of entertainment, how George Bush sometimes says dumb things and added nothing to the body of opinion on any of them.
It's a shame, as Luke Toulson and Stephen Harvey are hugely gifted performers, able to take on the mantle of any character without props, wigs or costumes. They subtly catch accents and physical mannerisms of everyone from a seven-year-old schoolboy to Daniel Kitson, who they envisage as some mystical shaman able to transcend space.
All these figures play their part in a rather convoluted non-linear story about two astronauts who return to Earth after 11 years adrift in the Mir space station to find the world is not as they left it. The Russian cosmonaut's life falls apart, he's forced to emigrate to the UK, take menial jobs and winds up in the gutter; while his American counterpart is hailed as a hero, elected President or Emperor as well as hosting his own late-night chat show. Read that again: Emperor and chat show host? You'd have thought that at some point one of them might have realised that, as a satirical idea, that's immature rubbish.
That's indicative of the main problem underpinning the entire hour: that the concepts are blunt and broad, and played out with very little insight or opinion.
What they are good at is creating theatrical texture, with
off-the-wall ideas and a distinctive structure making the intertwining
sketches stylistically interesting. It's just the writing and
the concept that let down this talented duo and they're
fairly major failings.